AUGUSTA — A city and school budget that would increase the property tax rate by just under 3 percent goes to city councilors for approval Thursday.

The $59.3 million spending plan is down from City Manager William Bridgeo’s initially proposed budget, which would have required a tax rate increase of 5.23 percent.

So far the budget has faced little opposition, with no residents coming out to speak for or against it at a public hearing in May.

Meanwhile, the reduction in the tax increase came about largely as the result of revised revenue and expense projections, not from a long list of budget cuts.

City officials note that changes to the state Homestead Exemption program, which allows homeowners to reduce the taxable valuation of their primary residences, mean homeowners who qualify for it would see their property taxes decrease, as long as their home is worth $184,000 or less.

Owners of commercial properties or second homes in the city are not eligible for the Homestead Exemption and would thus see the full, 2.96 percent property tax rate increase proposed in the budget that goes to city councilors for a final vote Thursday.

For homeowners who do qualify for the Homestead Exemption, only the owners of homes worth $200,000 or more would see a tax increase. And Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said 93 percent of homes in Augusta are valued at less than $200,000.

Spending in the proposed budget is up $1.3 million over the current year’s budget, a 2.25 percent increase.

City councilors discussed several changes to the budget, most recently at their budget wrap-up session Monday night, in anticipation of Thursday’s business meeting. The council is set to vote on the budget at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Changes included the addition of $34,000 to the snow removal account, to pay for two additional, seasonal, drivers to plow snow in the winter. That, St. Pierre said, would be accompanied by a policy change stating during snowstorms the Public Works Department may stop rubbish collection to focus workers on snow removal, which would free up two more drivers and four laborers for snow removal.

The city received complaints this winter about some streets and sidewalks not being plowed in a timely manner.

“We’re very well aware of how we fell short this year,” Mayor David Rollins said of the complaints about snow plowing.

Councilors also agreed to add $12,000 to the solid waste budget, to make changes meant to address some residents’ concerns that single-sort recycling bins in the city often fill up with recyclables on weekends.

St. Pierre said the $12,000 will allow the public works depot on North Street to open on Saturdays for single sort recycling, from 8 a.m. to noon for 30 weeks in the spring, summer and fall. And the money will also pay for the city to hire a contractor to make additional runs to ecomaine with the full containers. It will also pay to have an additional container on hand, which is meant to decrease the likelihood the recycling containers will fill up on weekends.

“We think this will address some of the concerns, about folks on the weekends who show up on a Saturday or Sunday and the bins are full at city hall, or the Buker Center,” Bridgeo said. “We think this would go a long way toward giving us more capacity (for recyclables). I’m not going to say it’s going to be perfect, I’m just going to say it’ll be better.”

The budget also incorporated changes to projected revenues and expenses made since the budget was first proposed which, taken together, would reduce the amount of money needed from taxpayers by about $470,000.

Those changes included a $300,000 decrease in health insurance costs for school employees, a $40,000 decrease in Augusta’s share of the Kennebec County budget, a potential $58,000 decrease in the city’s increased costs because of a proposed Greater Augusta Utility District stormwater rate increase, and a $110,000 increase in revenue sharing from the state based upon recent state projections.

The property tax rate is now $19.79 for every $1,000 of property valuation. It would be $20.38 if the budget is approved as proposed.

There will be an opportunity for public comment before the budget vote, St. Pierre noted.

Councilors on Thursday are also scheduled to discuss:

Windsor Avenue drainage issues;

• pawnbrokers and second hand dealers licensing;

• a Friends of Maine’s Mountains award for the city-owned Bond Brook Recreation Area;

• whether to accept the donation of a building at 11 State St.; and

• a Maine Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness community development block grant for workforce development.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj